Manistee’s 36-14 loss at Gladstone Friday night in a Division 6 district football final was tough for the Chippewas to take. They were seeking their program’s first district title.
But what’s even tougher for the Chippewas, according to coach Troy Bytwork, is seeing a memorable season end for a “tight-knit group.”
Manistee finishes with a 7-4 overall record. Entering Friday, the Chippewas had won four straight games, including a 28-27 road victory over previously unbeaten Boyne City in last week’s playoff opener.
The last two weeks, Manistee’s football team has traveled more than 900 miles.
“It’s a culture-changer. It’s tough two hours (after the game) to kind of put it into context or find perspective, but it’s amazing how quick two weeks can go,” Bytwork said in a phone interview with CatchMark SportsNet Friday night as he and his team bussed back from the Upper Peninsula.
“Those additional two weeks, it’s amazing how much that adds. It’s such a tight-knit group. I think the most difficult part about it is we all truly want to be together again on Monday and (can’t because) that’s just how it works.”
Gladstone (9-2) advances to next week’s regional final and will face the winner of Menominee and Negaunee.
Manistee made it a day trip to Gladstone – a very long day. The Chippewas departed at 9 a.m. Friday and bussed to St. Ignace for a pit stop. One of Manistee’s assistant coaches is from St. Ignace, where the Chippewas did a walk-through before they headed west to Gladstone.
Manistee got off to a good start, taking an early 6-0 lead on Nick Hornkohl’s 3-yard touchdown run. Gladstone answered on quarterback Nate Young’s 8-yard scoring run, then the Braves added a two-point conversion for an 8-6 lead.
Manistee responded, however, going back in front 14-8 on an 8-yard TD pass from Jeff Huber to Hornkohl, who added the two-point conversion run.
Gladstone answered once again to tie it at 14. Then, in what was one of the big turning points of the game, the Braves stopped Manistee on a fourth-and-7 from the Gladstone 34, then they drove and scored in the final minute of the half for a 22-14 lead.
Gladstone broke a couple big plays and got the ball down around the Manistee 10. The Chippewas pushed the Braves to fourth down with less than 30 seconds left.
“The quarterback got flushed out of the pocket and hit a receiver across the goal line, so that put them up 22-14 after the conversion,” Bytwork said.
“That was a momentum-changer because we got out 6-0 on them. They scored and it was 8-6 and then we went up 14-8, then 14-14, so yeah, that was a big one,”
The score remained 22-14 until about eight minutes left, when Gladstone intercepted a pass. The Braves’ Cole Potier scored on a 25-yard TD run and added to the conversion to make it 30-14 with 6:52 remaining.
Potier, a physical running back, finished with 157 yards on 21 carries. He also scored on a 29-yard run.
Gladstone put it away with another interception, followed by a TD pass four plays later for a 36-14 advantage.
“They’ve got a pretty legit running back. He was tough to bring down, so he wore on us a little bit,” Bytwork said about Potier.
“It was just a physical ballgame. There was just a lot of hitting on the field. Both teams were kind of seeking to do the same thing. … There really wasn’t a breaking point per se; we just kind of banged at each other. We turned it over late and that kind of hurt us.”
Hornkohl finished with 111 rushing yards on 14 carries, while Isaiah Davis had 48 yards on 15 attempts. Huber was 2-of-4 passing for nine yards with a TD and two picks.
Defensively, Hornkohl had seven tackles and a pass deflection. Trevor Adamczak recorded six tackles, including one for lost yardage. David, Carter Fredricks and Brian McNeil also had six stops apiece for Manistee.
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